The Value of a Partial Hog

by Katy on May 4, 2010 · 14 comments

It is natural to want to take on projects in the style of the whole hog. Pull everything out of that cluttered closet, go through every single one of your child’s outgrown toys in an afternoon, attack that overwhelming basement mess over a single weekend!

But sometimes, (okay, often) the opportunity for going the whole hog does not offer itself up. Either because of time constraints or energy level, thinking that everything has to be done all at once is a barrier to actually getting anything done.

Which is why I offer up the notion of the partial hog.

Can’t organize the entire closet? How about just the board games or just the shoes? Can’t attack that disastrous basement? Perhaps just a shelf or two would fit into your day.

Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar recently wrote a blog piece about Snowflaking and Goals.

” ‘Snowflaking’ refers to the idea that if you make little frugal steps throughout the month, you simply add the amount you saved with that method and include the total as an extra payment at the end of the month.”

This is a similar concept to my “partial hog” idea. Dramatically big actions are fantastic, but the small stuff can actually add up more impressively in the long run. The person who spends eight long hours organizing their closets will actually get less accomplished than the person who consistently spends thirty minutes per day.

I have to fight this “Oh, why bother?” instinct when I’m taking a solitary laundry basket of stuff to Goodwill or I’m helping my son clear off his desk in an otherwise disorganized bedroom. But it is these small bits of the hog that will eventually add up to the whole hog.

And the whole hog is the goal, but not necessarily the process.

Sorry if my analogy grossed you out. As an apology, I offer up the adorable Jessica Wolk-Stanley illustration.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen@TheFrugalGirl May 4, 2010 at 3:51 pm

I totally agree with this…it’s about not letting perfectionism freeze you into inaction. Lots of little bits of cleaning/organizing start to add up after a while.


WilliamB May 4, 2010 at 4:20 pm

“The person who spends eight long hours organizing their closets will actually get less accomplished than the person who consistently spends thirty minutes per day”

I agree wholeheartedly with your idea of the partial hog, but I’m not with you on this sentence. I don’t think one rule applies to every person. For me it depends on the chore, my energy level that month, my sked, and probably a half dozen other factors.

But YES! on the general sentiment that it doesn’t have to be done all at once. And YES! on not letting the “all at once” mentality get in the way of getting the chore done.


Jeanine May 5, 2010 at 10:53 am


If I were to clean out my pantry in one lump sum, it would stay that way for at least two weeks.

If I only did a shelf or two at the time, it would return to it’s orginal state in just a couple of days, and I’d continue, and it would just be a vicious cycle. I’d never be able to move out of that one room.

But’s that’s just me. Besides, I’m a Virgo, and perfection rules with me….

I like your analogy of the whole hog. In celebration of it, and Cinco De Mayo, I think we’ll have carnitas tonight.

Thanks Katy!


Alissa May 4, 2010 at 5:29 pm

I believe in half hock. Or half bacon maybe 🙂 If I’ve got 5 minutes while dinner is simmering, then I wash dishes for 5 minutes. No, it usually isn’t enough time to wash what needs washing, but it’s 5 less minutes I’ll need to spend on the task later. Same thing with light cleaning. If I’ve got 10 minutes until I need to leave, then I try to pick up a few small things. I find it gets a bit more done than I thought before I started doing things this way.


Angela May 4, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I agree as well. I put things off forever, usually organizing or decluttering chores, until I utilize the “15 minutes” method. If I’ve got 15 minutes, I’ll tackle part of the project and either keep going or hit it again next time.

I had to laugh at your “single laundry basket” for the Goodwill. I generally go to Goodwill once every month or two with a shopping bag I keep in the back of my car and slowly fill up.


WilliamB May 5, 2010 at 2:27 am

Forgot to add: I’ve been Spring Cleaning my kitchen this way – emptying one cabinet, wiping it down, putting everything back. At this rate it’ll take me a year. Which is OK since I Spring Clean about twice a decade.


Nick Palmer May 5, 2010 at 3:24 am

Great! I’ve had the idea of only doing things 95% since I discovered that cleaning the last 5% of the oven took most of the time and effort.


magdalena May 5, 2010 at 3:41 am

I think of it as filling in the time. I can get a lot done in the ten minutes I’m waiting for my husband to dress for church, or while someone else finishes a phone call before we go grocery shopping. Empty the dishwasher, take the newspapers to the recycling box,put shirts on hangers from the laundry basket. The little steps add up by the end of the day. Now, I hope I don’t have any eight hour closets!

Jessica’s handsome little pig is too nice to become bacon.


fairydust May 5, 2010 at 5:47 am

I’m notorious for being so overwhelmed by the enormity of a whole-hog task that I’m immobilized from even dealing with a small fraction of it. We are, however, trying to enact a baby-steps scenario for our desire to get all the clutter and crap out of our house and then renovate (or at least paint and redo the floors). It will likely take a long time, but we’ve finally started, seen some progress and that helps keep us motivated 🙂


Kristin @ klingtocash May 5, 2010 at 6:20 am

I love this concept. It’s very similar to a friend of mine’s. She says you should break your day down into 17 minute increments and devote those small chunks of time to a task. It works really well to get yourself motivated and feel like you’ve accomplished something. You may not be able to finish cleaning your closet in that period of time, but if you give it 17 minutes a day, you’d be amazed how much you’ll get done!

Great idea! Setting realistic goals for yourself will make you feel more accomplished and motivated for future goals.


Jean May 5, 2010 at 9:09 am

I have a little quote Aby Garvey sent out recently that fits this exactly–“Some is better than none.” Her point was that if you just make one small step toward a goal each day, you are moving in the right direction. I jumped into Lent inspired by a “40 Bags in 40 Days” Challenge–didn’t quite make it, but 32 bags of stuff recycled,given away to someone who could use it, donated to the DAV was still quite an accomplishment. And most of it left one bag at a time. If I only have one bag to go to the donation box instead of everything still lurking in my basement, closets, garage…well, that’s one more bag gone! I loved William B’s comment–I do my kitchen this way all year long…one drawer or one shelf as I am doing my dishes on nights I don’t have some other commitment–when it’s done I start over again, so at least the cabinets and drawers in that room stay fairly clean and organized. (This may sound like overkill, but if you take each drawer or cabinet shelf individually, there are over 50 in my kitchen and I don’t do this every night so it’s probably a three or four month interval…there are plenty of crumbs in the utensil drawer by the time I get back around to it! Tthis makes what would otherwise be a two day job into something relatively painless.


Lisa May 5, 2010 at 9:58 am

“Slow and steady wins the race.” ~ from the story about the tortoise and the hare


Cate May 5, 2010 at 10:06 am

Definitely! Like WilliamB, I think that sometimes spending 8 hours on a project at once can be just as productive as spending 30 minutes a day on it, but other than that, I’m totally with you. I try to come up with little organizing tasks to do when I’m “waiting” throughout the day (for water to get hot, for rice to cook, whatever). It might be organizing a kitchen drawer or a bathroom cabinet. But it definitely makes me feel more productive.


Sue Madre May 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm

This is very much in line with FlyLady’s mantra of “You can do anything for 15 minutes.” Meaning that even the phewy-awfuls, or horribly-borings, can get done if attacked in bite-size pieces.


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